Welcome to the first post of my rewatch of The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. If you’re not familiar with the show the short description is “Bruce Campbell in a Western.” There are some fantastical elements to the show so it’s a mix of Indiana Jones as well as classic Westerns.
After a spoiler-free introduction I’ll delve deep into a spoiler-filled recap.
Brisco County, Jr. aired in 1993-94 on Fox. It was the lead in show for The X-Files during that show’s first season. While The X-Files survived declining ratings led to Brisco’s cancellation after one season of 27 episodes, making it an early casualty of Fox’s Friday Night Death Slot.
Here is part of the synopsis (written by Bruce Campbell) from the DVD set for the episode “Pilot.”
No one I know who has watched the show didn’t like it. If you haven’t seen the show but my recaps get you interested then I will consider that a success. Offhand I don’t know of anywhere the show is legally streaming online but it is available on DVD. Now on to the recap. This was a two hour premiere so this will be a long recap.
The year is 1893. We start out at a mine somewhere near San Francisco. A group of Chinese laborers discover a mysterious Orb. A glowing rod drawn from the Orb allows them to break the chains and escape from their forced labor. We’ll see the Orb again but first it’s on to Chapter One of our show.
(The show features a gimmick where the episode is broken into chapters corresponding to the commercial breaks. Each chapter has a catchy, often punny title.)
Marshal Brisco County has captured the thirteen key members of the John Bly gang and is transporting them by train to prison. But other gang members led by Pete Hutter have organized a break out. Marshal County is gunned down by John Bly and his twelve associates on the train before they escape.
Five tycoons in San Francisco hire the Marshal’s son Brisco County Jr. to track down the Bly gang. Brisco is a Harvard educated lawyer but found that life dull, turning to bounty hunting instead. He also has an unusually close connection to his horse Comet (not that way, you perverts). Brisco’s point of contact with the tycoons is their lawyer, Socrates Poole.
A rival bounty hunter, Lord Bowler (half black, half Native American), wants the Bly bounty and confronts Brisco at a restaurant. Bowler places a bundle of dynamite on the table and lights it, daring Brisco to run away first as the fuse burns down...
Lord Bowler backs down and cuts the fuse loose.
Meanwhile back at the mine the U.S. government seizes the Orb from the mine (and one of the tycoons who hired Brisco). The Feds intend to ship the orb on a special gold train to Washington where top men will study it. Big Smith, one of thirteen escapees, is planning on robbing the gold train. He finds out the Brisco has been hired to track down the gang and tricks a tong in San Francisco into attacking Brisco and Socrates in their hotel room. Brisco and Socrates end up dangling outside the window while a tong member (with scarred feet) tries to kick them off...
The two fall but instead of the wagon full of sharp implements they were dangling over they manage to land in a wagon full of hay instead, breaking their fall safely.
Brisco follows up on a charm he grabbed from one of the attackers which leads him to the Scarred Foot Clan. The clan leader drops two bits of information. First he mentions the Orb and what it did for the Chinese laborers. Then he points Brisco in the direction of Big Smith’s girlfriend Dixie Cousins.
In a club Brisco finds Dixie. He also runs into a scientist, Professor Wickwire, and his daughter who will show up again later. Dixie receives a note from a mystery man then gets on the stagecoach out of town. Brisco joins her on the stage but soon the find themselves driverless on a runaway stagecoach...
Brisco and Dixie jump from the coach and land at the feet of Big Smith and his gang.
Brisco thinks fast and claims to be Kansas Wiley Stafford, a notorious outlaw. Big has his doubts but allows Brisco to join him at his hideaway. He runs into the professor and his daughter again which ends up with Briscoe having a showdown with Pete Hutter on the main street of town (Briscoe touched Pete’s piece i.e. his pistol). Three of Pete’s cronies are nearby with their guns drawn so it looks like Brisco is about to be filled with lead...
Briscoe drops to the ground as Pete and his cronies open fire. They end up shooting each other in a deadly crossfire.
It turns out Dixie has plans of her own to take over Big’s gang and Kansas Wiley Stafford would be useful. Dixie tells Briscoe about the gold train before the obligatory shag.
After checking out Big’s operation, Brisco runs into the professor and his daughter once again. This time he shows Brisco the rocket he’s working on.
The next morning Big bursts into the saloon with a captive Bowler, who used Comet to track down Brisco. Bowler doesn’t dime out Brisco but Comet does.
Brisco and Bowler end up tied to the railroad tracks with the gold train rapidly approaching...
Comet frees Briscoe, Brisco pulls Bowler clear before they’re run over by the train.
Briscoe puts the professor’s rocket on a railroad cart and rides the rocket cart to catch the gold train. He manages to foil the train robbery. Big Smith and the Orb fall from the train as it passes over a high river chasm. So we can safely assume that neither Big Smith or the Orb will ever show up again in the future, right? There is one minor problem though. The train is still barrelling along at full speed but they’re running out of track...
Brisco manages to apply brakes just in the nick of time to prevent the train from going over a cliff.
Back in San Francisco, Brisco confronts the tycoon who owned the mine the Orb was discovered in. The tycoon was the one who gave Dixie the note about the gold train’s schedule for Big Smith. The tycoon wanted the orb for himself.
It turns out the tycoon used the Orb’s power on himself when he still had possession of it. With his heightened strength he proceeds to beat the tar out of Brisco. After Brisco makes the requisite comment about fooling with powers he doesn’t understand the tycoon ages rapidly and turns literally to dust.
Brisco visits his father’s grave. He missed the funeral so this is his goodbye to him.
Then he mounts Comet and rides off to catch the twelve remaining members of Bly’s gang of escapees.
- Pete Hutter made such an impression on me that whenever I see the actor John Pyper-Ferguson in other things I have trouble taking his character seriously because I still associate him with the character of Pete Hutter. While Pete appeared to die he turns up again in later episodes. The character would repeatedly survive fatal encounters with outlandish explanations.
- Dixie Cousins is another recurring character in the series played by Kelly Rutherford trying to play Mae West. I get that it fit the tone of the show but I usually found the Mae West bit distracting.
- Billy Drago was perfectly cast as John Bly.